Building TV stand, screwed up finish

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Forum topic by dmarino posted 02-17-2016 02:22 PM 725 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 1008 days

02-17-2016 02:22 PM

Hi, I recently built a TV stand out of red oak plywood. I dont have alot of experience finishing and this is my first major woodworking project. I was trying to go for the natural oak look and finished it with 2 coats of watco natural Danish oil and 2 coats of minwax wipe on polyurethane, big mistake. After putting the poly on it just look orange and yellow and didnt look good. So now Im trying to sand off everything and apply a dark walnut or java stain. I am almost about to scrap the whole thing but Id rather not waste more money on the wood so im trying to salvage this. Right now Ive got most of it sanded . Once it is all sanded is it ok to apply an oil based stain like minwax or should I use a gel type stain over it because of the previous poly coats?? Im ticked off about the whole thing and about to throw in the towel and just build a new one. Id rather not have to find all the wood again and waste more money and time rebuilding it because build looks good I just screwed up on finishing. What do you guys think would be the best thing to do??

6 replies so far

View bbasiaga's profile


1240 posts in 2173 days

#1 posted 02-17-2016 03:11 PM

If you are sure you sanded off all the old poly, you should be good with stain.

I am not sure what went wrong with your finish. I recently used Watch natural danish oil with Ar R Seal (a poly) for my cherry table set, and it came out great. If you are going to stain it this time, remember that red oak grain is very porous in places. You can see it by looking across the surface. Some will look like sanded wood, other places you will see the porous grain. That porous part will soak up stain and get very dark compared to the flat grain around it. You can use a couple of coats of pore sealer ahead of time to help even it out.

You could also try Shellac, which if you get the clear kind doesn’t give that much of a yellow color. But it also isn’t moisture proof like poly.

Got any pics of what happened? That might help the experts.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Redoak49's profile


3607 posts in 2167 days

#2 posted 02-17-2016 03:24 PM

I would l d take a scrap of the plywood and finish it like you did originally, sand it off and try the stain.

I suspect that the Danish oil will make it difficult to stain.

Better to try it on a scrap first.

View BurlyBob's profile


5937 posts in 2443 days

#3 posted 02-17-2016 03:26 PM

I’ve used Watco Dark Walnut on oak plywood for a tv stand I build my son and daughter in law. I also used red oak hardwood for trim. I finished it with Minwax gloss poly. The end product was exactly what they wanted. I was pretty pleased with it as well. When I finish with the poly I use polyester cloth folded and sort of squeegee it on. Multiple coats allowed to dry hard a light sanding with 600 wet/dry and you can achieve a mirror finish.

Virtually any oil based poly finish is going to have an amber color to it. If you want crystal clear your going to have to go to a water based poly and they have a whole different process to get a good finish. Also Danish oil has to be allowed to dry thoroughly.

View RobS888's profile


2506 posts in 2023 days

#4 posted 02-17-2016 04:24 PM

I’ve found with the Watco Danish oil to, sort of, not follow the instructions. I wipe it on then wipe it off within 3 minutes with a paper towel and (not sure if burnish is the right term) rub with the paper towel until it has a sheen to it. The top layer of plywood is pretty thin, so you probably need to go for even less time. Apply with a foam brush and then burnish it with a paper towel.

About MinWax, I’ve never had much luck with their products and avoid them now. As mentioned above Arm-R-Seal works very well over Watco Danish oil.

This is Watco Medium with 1 coat of Arm-R-Seal on white Oak.

-- I always suspected many gun nuts were afraid of something, just never thought popcorn was on the list.

View bbasiaga's profile


1240 posts in 2173 days

#5 posted 02-17-2016 04:52 PM

I have used the Minway Wipe on with great success, but always on its own.

One other thing, did you wait the 72 hours for the danish oil to dry? It will feel try to the touch, but the can recommends waiting 3 days before topcoating. I wonder if your poly bubbled in places the oil wasn’t fully dried. Could see how that gives you the splotchy look, and some yellow spots where it delaminated.

Also, danish oil comes in darker tones. You might have better luck going over with that to darken things, since it should be compatible with the danish oil you already have soaked in there.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1098 days

#6 posted 02-17-2016 05:01 PM


I empathize with your frustration but do not scrap the finished project no matter how awful you may think it looks. This is an important project; your first major project. My first projects were very amateurish, so you are not alone. The really bad ones went into my room of shame, but I am glad I kept them. I can look at past projects and see the mistakes I made and see how I have progressed over the years in the craft.

Sanding off the finish is a lot of work and quite a challenge. The flat areas are pretty easy to sand, but the problem arises where parts are joined together. It is difficult to get completely into these corners. Failure to sand away finish in the corners will leave these areas darker than the rest of the project. Also sanding away finish from mouldings is a challenge. Generally sand the most difficult areas first. Then sand the rest of the project so that the same amount of finish is removed from the entire project. Doing this gives the refinished project a uniform look.

I find sanding across the grain at the joints first with a flat sanding backer block before sanding the rest of the project is fairly effective. Sand across the grain at these corner areas through the grits to the final grit can lift most of the finish. Then carefully and thoroughly re-sand the corner areas, with the grain and as far into to corners as possible, with the final grit until the scratches from sanding across the grain are completely removed. Racking light from a flashlight will reveal otherwise unseen scratches. Then move on to the open flat areas through the grits.

Before applying the new finish, tack the project and carefully inspect the results. Any variations in appearance will probably be amplified when the new finish is applied. Applying clean mineral spirits at this point can give you an idea of the look when a clear finish is applied. After the mineral spirits have completely evaporated, the project can be finished.

I really like Redoak49 recommendation. Take a piece of scrap and sand it as you originally did with the project. Then finish it exactly as you did the project, including waiting between applications for the same time as on the original project. Then sand the finish off the scrap, again as you are doing to the project until the test scrap has the same appearance as the sanded project. Now the scrap piece can be used to hone your finishing technique until you get the look you like. This means the scrap should be large enough that you can perform several different methods in different areas of the scrap.

Finishing is an art unto itself. One can spend a lifetime perfecting this craft. Finishing is the part of the project I dislike the most, therefore I keep it simple. I do not stain projects. When I have, I end up with projects that exhibit a blotchy appearance, especially with red oak and cherry (some areas darker than others and not a very uniform appearance). Rather, I pick the wood whose appearance is what I am after and finish the project with a clear coat. I just no not want to precondition the wood before applying the stain.

I have used Danish oil, but have settled on oil based polyurethane on most of my projects. Danish oil is a penetrating finish, so by itself it offers little protection. I reserve it for project where I want the texture of the wood to come through the finish and the project will see little abuse. It is fast and easy to apply but off-gases for a longer period of time. After the Danish oil is dry, I apply a coat or two of furniture past wax. Wax is the only top coat I apply to Danish oil for no other reason than I want to keep finishing as simple as I can.

Oil based polyurethane will impart a yellowing tint to the project, which is more noticeable on lighter woods like red oak, but seems to have little effect on dark woods like walnut. It is a film finish and the thicker the finish (applying more light coats) increases the protective properties from most liquids that may contact the finish.

Water based polyurethane will have little effect on the color of the wood, but it will raise the grain. Therefore extra sanding is required, another task I am pretty sick of doing at the end of the project. However, I do not know how well is performs over an oil based coating. I suppose it is ok if the oil based finish is fully cured, but that can take quite a long time.

I have not used shellac, mainly because an alcohol containing beverage spilled on the finish will dissolve the shellac. I think it also imparts a yellow color to lighter woods and to afford full protection, it requires a protective top coat of another material. But like I said, I do not use shellac so I really do not know much about it.

So what would I do with your project (not having seen it) and not liking its appearance? I would sand the project to 180 grit and to a uniform appearance. I would turn it over and with an indelible marking pen, like a Sharpie, sign and date the project on the underside of the top. Then I would apply three coats of polyurethane, set a TV on it, and hope the wife appreciates my efforts. Lastly, and until I settled on my preferred finish for future projects, I would prepare a sample board along with the project. Then I would use the sample board to perfect the finishing technique before proceeding to the project.

Hope this helps!

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